So, you’ve got a road trip coming up. And you’ve got an infant… Can the two coexist? Yes! We live four hours away from my family, so our little one has seen many road trips in his short life. If you’re wondering how to have a successful, enjoyable road trip with an infant, I’m here to help!
The first time we went to visit my parents, my son was a month old. I’ll tell you right now: if you want to take a trip with a young baby, do it. That was the easiest trip we’ve taken, hands down.
My son slept the entire way (except when we woke him up to feed him halfway through). Since then, none of the trips have been quite so easy. But only a few have been brutal. So today I’ve decided to share my wisdom on traveling with an infant!
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Preparing for the Road Trip
Possibly the most taxing part of any road trip is the preparation. Planning out any stops you’ll need to take, when to leave, what to pack, etc. If you’re going somewhere with a deadline (i.e. you need to check in by 5 PM) then you’ll really need to plan ahead, and I’d suggest adding 30 minutes to an hour to whatever time you think you’ll want to leave. Babies generally have their own plans for how things will go down.
There’s also the logistics of packing for a baby. What I would recommend is (depending on how long you’ll be gone) giving yourself about a week to determine what you’ll need. If you use it within that week, you’ll probably use it on the trip. If you don’t, you can probably keep it at home. Granted if it’s a quick overnight trip, less is probably more. No need to pack the entire nursery.
My General Packing List
Your list will probably vary depending on the trip, but here is what I tend to bring for my baby.
- Clothes–depending on if you’ll have access to laundry, bring a few more outfits than you’ll “need”–chances are you’ll need everything you brought and will still end up doing laundry
- Diapers, wipes, diaper rash cream–again, bring more than you think you’ll need
- First aid kit–hopefully you won’t need it, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Particularly if you’re going somewhere you’ve never been and so you aren’t sure what their convenience store situation might be. And make sure the nail clippers are in there!
- Pump and accessories–if you need it
- Whatever sleeping mechanism your baby sleeps in (I personally love this
Rock N Play for travel because it folds down, but lots of people use a
Pack N Play)
- Your baby carrier or stroller
- The diaper bag–sure, you could lug the suitcase around the whole time, but you probably aren’t going to want to!
- Depending on the length of stay, all the supplies you need for your baby’s bath–if you don’t absolutely need baby’s bathtub, don’t bring it, it’s a colossal waste of space. Personally, we just shower with our little guy, so there’s no need to bring our bathtub–which is currently sitting in his [unused] room, with tens of other unused things
- Always bring 1-2 outfits for wild weather–if it’s the dead of summer, bring a few long-sleeved, long pants outfits; if it’s an icy winter, bring a few lighter items– you seriously never know what the weather might do, and you don’t wanna be “that mom” who has her kid in a parka when it’s 80° outside.
- Depending on your baby’s age, feeding accessories or food–So far things have been very easy in this department because my son has been exclusively breastfed, so as long as I was in the car, so was all of his feeding equipment. However, once we start solids it will be a whole new ballgame.
- Two blankets–one to keep him warm if necessary, the other to lay down to change his diaper on
- Don’t forget the baby!
Plan Around Your Baby’s Schedule
Does your baby love sleeping in the car? Or does all the noise and motion wake them up? Use this knowledge to your advantage. If they love the car, leave at bedtime or naptime. If they’ll sleep poorly, consider leaving early in the morning, or whenever they wake up.
And remember when you reach your destination to try to keep their schedule as similar as possible to what you do at home. This will help them feel secure in a new environment.
Related: The Power of a Bedtime Routine
Anticipate the Blow Out!
This is something we didn’t do. And things were fine until one fateful day. On our way to Utah, my son made his tell-tale poop face. I tell my husband that we’ll need to stop. But then I see it. The leaking poop.
There’s nothing you can do in the moment. All you can really do is pray that he’d almost done. When we stopped, I went to work cleaning the baby and my husband went to work cleaning to car. When you’re on the road, a car seat is not an easy thing to clean.
If you’d like to avoid that mess, put a thin piece of fabric down. You don’t want anything too bulky that might mess with the efficacy of the car seat in case of a crash. You could use a burp rag or regular rag, though. Put it where the blow out will occur, and if it comes down to it, all you have to do is remove that cloth!
Have Diaper Changing Supplies Ready
In a similar vein, you’ll want to have a small “go bag” that you can grab quickly. I’ve seen some pictures on Pinterest where people use an empty plastic wipes container and pack some diapers, a change of clothes, and a tiny pack of wipes. That way, you can just take it with you into the bathroom. Or, if there’s no changing table, you have what you need right there.
And, yes, I’ve had to change a few diapers in the (parked) car. Not fun.
The Road Trip
If you’re going with another adult, which I highly recommend as it will make your trip much easier, have one person sit in the back with the baby. This way you don’t have to pull over the instant your little one starts crying.
If that’s not feasible, get a mirror so you can keep an eye on your precious cargo. (But obviously drive carefully and only glance back quickly when it’s safe to do so, please use your own judgment here people)
I recommend stopping at least every two hours, but you may need to more often if your little one is fussy or hungry. Remember that when you’re going on a road trip, your baby is in charge. Don’t watch the clock to know when you need to stop. If your baby is crying, you need to stop.
Note: sometimes a trip that used to take us 4 hours takes us 6 hours, which is why I would strongly recommend a very loose schedule. If you have to be somewhere right on time, you’ll want to be overly cautious and leave well before you think you’ll need to.
Introduce New Toys
These don’t actually need to be new. If you plan ahead, just hide some toys for a week or two before the trip. Then reintroduce them. Don’t give your baby all their toys at once. Try to rotate them out and give only one or two at a time.
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Make Frequent Stops
While the general rule of thumb is to try to get your angel out of the car seat about every two hours, there’s no rule against getting them out even more frequently. Any time you stop, you should get your baby out. Even if it’s just for ten minutes. If you’re getting sore, chances are your baby is, too.
Consider the Feeding Situation
I’ve seen some moms say to bring bottles and snacks, but I’ve also read not to feed a baby in a car seat. The reason for this is because if your baby were to choke, it would be quite hard to pull over, get them out of the car seat, and start helping them.
In the end, this is up to your own judgment. But just consider that. I know it’s super inconvenient to pull over each time your baby wants to snack, but it’s what we did (mostly because he was exclusively breastfeeding and we had no other choice) and it wasn’t the end of the world.
Have you taken a road trip with an infant? How did it go? What would you add?
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